New law in NJ aims to stop troubled students from resorting to violence
TRENTON – School districts must develop threat assessment teams at their schools, under a law signed Monday by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Charter schools and renaissance schools also must enact policies creating threat assessment teams, which help teachers, administrators and other staff identify students of concerns, assess their risk for engaging in violence and intervening to head that off.
“It is my hope that these threat assessment teams will help students and school employees feel safe and out of harm’s way when they are at school, and for students who are considered to be a threat to receive the much-needed help they need at such a crucial time in their lives,” Murphy said.
Guidelines will be developed by the state Department of Education, working with state law enforcement and homeland security officials. This law takes effect immediately for the 2022-2023 school year.
“No one better understands the vulnerabilities of New Jersey’s school communities than those who work there every day, including our teachers, administrators, school counselors, school safety specialists and resource officers,” said acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan.
When the idea was discussed by the Assembly Education Committee, a police officer who serves as school resource officer in Woodbury said some schools in the state have threat assessment teams already but others "do absolutely nothing."
The teams will have to include a school psychologist, counselor, social worker or other employee with expertise in student counseling; a teacher; a school principal or other senior administrator; a resource officer or employee who serves as a liaison to police; and the designated school safety specialist.
“I really, truly believe that if we focus on students that are in crisis before they cause harm to themselves or others, we can be the most impactful,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden. “The new law will help us determine the right people around the table to have a conversation on how to diffuse school threats when they arise.”
The bill was approved unanimously in June at the same time as a set of gun-related legislation that Murphy had advocated, but it wasn’t part of the package and therefore wasn’t signed together.